Q. Should I mulch my grapevine? How and when?
Many thanks for your most interesting question.
Three distinct types of grapes are cultivated in the northeastern United States. Each has many varieties, which are best adapted to specific regions and are managed differently. Vitis labrusca are American grapes and include cultivars that are hardy in zones 5A and even colder. Vitis vinifera are European grapes and significantly more sensitive to cold. French-American grapes are hybrids of the two, producing good wines with less cold sensitivity than the vinifera grape plants and, in many cases, less susceptibility to pests and disease.
While Vitis vinifera is the dominant species for wine making in New York, the most common grapevine used in the northeast overall is Vitis labrusca or Concord grape.
In answer to your question, mulch is not recommended for grapevines in general, as grapes require extremely well drained soil and mulch tends to retain moisture and keeps the soil cool. Keeping the surface clear allows the ground temperature to increase and encourages growth of the vine.
Do not allow weeds or grass to grow at base of vine as this can serve as a mulch and thereby decreasing the ground temperature. Also, if too much water is available to this vine, it will shift from grape production and setting fruit, to a wood producing mode. A balance between fruit and vegetative growth is essential.
The Grape plant requires full sun and very well drained soil. Grapes grow best in warm soil and the more sun, the sweeter the fruit
Very lightly compost your grape vine, especially if your soil is sandy and very well drained. The best time to apply compost is late fall and spring.
Further information on growing grapes is available from this University of Minnesota Extension article, Growing Grapes for Home Use. For information on growing grapes for the New York State wine industry, refer to the Cornell Cooperative Extension Grape Program website.
Courtesy of NYBG Plant Information